(a)round 2 is a sequel to the four Chambers Dance Project, Heidi Strauss's and Darryl Tracy's riveting series of duets they commissioned from a quartet of choreographers in 2001. This time Strauss and Tracy have asked four new artists to create works for them. The resulting pieces are less about the possibilities of the duet as a dance form than they are explorations of mortality using various movement vocabularies.
First up is Lesandra Dodson's So Often In Vagueness, the program's most dancey work, full of quick moves, fast turns and slaps, punctuated by quotes (in the original German) from the poet Rilke. It's a nice, formal, slightly severe - and precious - start to the program, with the two dancers outfitted appropriately in stiff black outfits.
From that formal beginning we enter the no man's land of Guillaume Bernardi's Qui Connat Le Chemin De Son Coeur?, a troubling and highly theatrical post-apocalyptic nightmare.
While lights slowly define the space and sounds evoke everything from X-ray machines to garbage trucks, two masked figures navigate their little patch of world, communicating in pre-verbal squeals, barely aware of each other.
Nothing's defined clearly, but lots is suggested as Rebecca Picherack's lighting reveals scars and the soundscape bores into our subconscious.
If there are hints about disease and illness in that work, they're re-emphasized in Sarah Chase's Contralateral Duets. After the pair present a tongue-in-cheek tango about anatomy, each reveals a personal story. Tracy talks about caring for an 89-year-old woman in a palliative care unit, while Strauss tells us about a near-fatal childhood accident. This is followed by a final dance that is flooded with emotion because we bring so much more to the performers than we did before. Beautiful.
Marie-Josée Chartier has the unenviable task of concluding the program, and she just about succeeds with La Lourdeur Des Cendres, a compelling if overlong look at how two people deal with looming death.
Evoking some awful codependent relationship, Chartier has the two dancers struggling for dominance and survival as they traverse the large Buddies in Bad Times performing area to the jagged electronic score by Allison Cameron.
The glimpse of freedom at the end feels too abrupt, but it's so well danced, you almost don't care.